A proposal for a whistle-to-whistle ban on live sports advertising has gained the backing of major betting companies in the UK.
UK Betting Firms Say Yes to Ad Restrictions
The proposal comes amid fears that advertisements during live sports games are having a negative impact on children. Major players in the industry including William Hill, Ladbrokes and Bet365 have agreed to the terms of the ban which prohibit them from showing advertisements during live sports. The proposal, which is still subject to debate and discussions, also covers games that start before the 9pm watershed and end after that period.
The UK’s five major gambling industry associations will meet next week to discuss the proposal which could be implemented within six months. While not all online betting firms agree to the measures, all were likely to comply, according to a senior figure from the gambling industry.
Other betting firms agreeing to the proposals are SkyBet, Betfair, Betfred, Gala Coral and Stan James. The whistle-to-whistle ban coincides with the Labour Party proposals and will exclude horse racing. Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson has welcomed the development, highlighting the growing number of people struggling with gambling issues. Latest stats show there are now 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK, with a number of them being minors.
Watson said the number of live sport advertisements has reached alarming levels, prompting urgent action from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
Concerns Over Gambling Normalisation
The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), the body representing online betting firms launched the proposals in a bid to protect children from the harms of problem gambling. There has been political pressure and public concern over the “normalization of gambling” in the country.
The huge number of advertisements being shown during televised sporting events has sparked concerns among campaigners, gambling opponents and the public. The extent of the problem was revealed when a study was carried out by the Guardian which showed that over 90 minutes of gambling adverts flooded TV screens during the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament.
New Proposals Will Impact Gambling Revenue
Shares in gambling companies have suffered in the wake of reports of advertising restrictions, with broadcasters’ revenue also likely to be dealt a huge blow. Broadcasters reportedly earned as high as £200 million from gambling ads last year. A huge chunk of this went to Sky, with ITV receiving the lesser share.
Clive Hawkswood, RGA’s Chief Executive, is keen on getting the gambling industry to approve the proposals before he leaves his post in January. The measures need to be approved by the Bingo Association, the National Casino Forum Association of British Bookmakers and the amusement arcade body Bacta, before they can come into full effect.
The RGA has also come up with a number of other proposals but as of now is not willing to take any action regarding imposing a ban on sponsoring football shirts by gambling companies. This is an interesting standpoint because Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for the Fairer Gambling campaign group points out that advertising restrictions would not be completely effective if shirt and league sponsorship are still allowed.
Majority of football clubs in the top two divisions in England rely on gambling firms for shirt sponsorships.
While possible enhancements to the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising are currently being looked at, no final decision has been made yet based on the latest statement from the RGA.
RGA Initiative Appreciated
Government officials and industry figures have welcomed the latest move on addressing problem gambling, with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright, complimenting the RGA for stepping up and responding to the concerns of the general public.
The Chief Executive of the Senet Group Sarah Hanratty also welcomed the response from betting firms and acknowledged that the density and volume of live sport advertising has reached unsustainable levels. The Senet Group is an independent body promoting responsible gambling, and is funded by the four biggest gambling firms in the UK.
Online Gambling Ads Should Also Be Addressed
Marc Etches, the Chief Executive of GambleAware says advertising restrictions should not only focus on TV ads but should also cover social media. Reports show that one in eight minors within the 11-16 age group are following gambling firms on social media. Gambling operators are also reportedly spending more money on their online advertising campaigns than their TV advertising campaigns.
Etches stated that the younger generation spend a considerable amount of time online and it would be wise for the RGA and UKGC to pay more attention to social media advertising.